A "Winds of Change" Story
The documentary on whitetails was almost over when the phone rang.
Jon pushed himself out of the chair and picked it up. I didn't pay much attention to him until he waved a hoofed hand at me, "It's Bryan. The other Bryan, I mean."
I looked at him a minute and tried to figure out who he was talking about. I knew a lot of Brian's. As he hung up the phone, I suddenly remembered the name from the Internet, the only other Bryan that Jon would know.
"Was that Derksen?"
Jon nodded. "Yea. He's been staying out near L.A. for the last few weeks. He's coming down here in the morning."
I grinned, "What'd he become?"
Jon started to answer then stopped. "I forgot to ask. I guess we'll find out in the morning."
I laughed. "If he's another buck, I'm leaving."
Jon just gave me a dirty look. Then we both decided that it was time to get to bed.
Despite having been down here almost a week, it was the first time that I'd actually slept in Jon's apartment. He'd picked up a low perch for me to sleep on, basically it looked like a low sawhorse. Although I could sleep on my stomach, I typically spent my nights standing with my head tucked under one wing and my feathers ruffled out.
I didn't give it much thought anymore. I just did it.
The next morning, I was awake before Jon. I hopped off the perch and wandered into the bathroom. It was long past time that I took a shower. I didn't sweat anymore, but my feathers had a tendency to hold in smells from days past. I just hated showering since I grew them. I couldn't use most soaps since they tended to damage the feathers. So I had to run water over them and preen at the same time, usually getting water in my ears, nose and beak in the process. I sighed and just decided to do it before I changed my mind.
I stepped into the warm shower and ruffled out my feathers. I felt the water strike bare skin even as the dark brown feathers of my body started matting down. I had to turn sideways in to stretch out one wing at a time in order to clean them off. By the time I was done, I looked terrible. I'd also dropped a few feathers in the process. I'd been molting a little for the past few weeks, but most people wouldn't know it. My feathers grew replacements before the old ones fell out. By the time I was done, I'd lost five feathers off my body, a few white ones from my head and two of my large tail feathers.
I stepped out of the shower and patted myself down with a towel. I was still very wet, but I wasn't dripping at least. My feathers were a royal mess, but I'd preen them straight once they dried a little. I stepped out of the bathroom an noticed that Jon was down the hall in the kitchen.
He turned as I walked in, "Morning Brian..." His voice trailed off a little and he burst out laughing. "What happened to you?"
I shrugged. "I just washed my feathers and I can't do a thing with them. I'll fix them when they dry out."
"Whatever. Just remind me not to beat you to a bath in the morning. Looks like you need more time that I do." He glanced over at the green LED clock on his oven. "Speaking of time, Bryan should be here in a couple hours. I might as well get cleaned up myself. Help yourself to breakfast."
I nodded and he walked into the bathroom himself. I looked around the kitchen a little, and made some toast. It is a little bit of a pain to eat it without any way to chew it, but it was solid and filled the void. I wasn't much of a breakfast bird anyway. I didn't bother even looking for jam or jelly. My sense of taste was pretty severely curtailed. Most sweets, unless very strongly flavored, didn't interest me anymore.
I perched in the living room and watched the morning news while I ate and preened. Kimberly wasn't on that morning, though she wasn't an anchor anyway, but they did run the tape of the interview from yesterday. I was happy to see, though, that it was pushed later in the newscast. The riot was quickly becoming old news.
A little while later, Jon reappeared, himself looking a little wet from the shower. I sighed a little. Life was so much easier when all we really had to dry off was a little hair on the head.
As Jon sat down, running a small towel over his fur, I asked, "So what's the plan today?"
Jon looked up at me, "I don't know. Maybe a tour of the area. Bryan's never been down this way, I think."
I nodded. "I'd like to see the area myself. It's been years since I was down this way."
"But you've seen the city from the air."
I shrugged, accidentally knocking over a small herb pot with a wing in the process. "Whoops, sorry about that. Anyway, it's different from the air than on the ground. Besides, all I look for are landmarks when I come into an area, and they aren't always the same as sights."
Jon nodded, "What time is it, anyway?"
I looked into the kitchen, "Almost noon. When did Bryan say that he'd be here?"
"Almost an hour ago. Hope he didn't get lost." As if in response, there was a knock on the door. I waited in the living room while Jon went to open the door. I clicked off the TV and heard Jon and Bryan talk briefly at the door. A moment later, a white bighorn walked into the room.
He was about my height, at least when I was off this perch, and covered in whitish gray fur, at least where his body wasn't covered by his clothes. His dark colored horns were pretty impressive. It was pretty clear that he wasn't expecting me, he stopped a little short. "Ummm, hi." Was all he could say.
I looked him over a little more. "Hey, Bryan! A bighorn, eh? Neat!"
He seemed more than a little mystified. I guessed that he didn't connect me with the person on the net, but then again, we had only been names on a screen then. It took a moment for him to come out and ask, "...sorry, what was your name again?"
I smiled. "It's Brian...Brian Coe."
His eyes opened in recognition. "Oh... Oh! Ohhhh! Of course, Brian/Bryan!"
We settled around the table, Jon and Bryan sitting and me perched, and talked for a while, mostly about stuff since the Change. There had been a lot going on everywhere in the world, most of which was buried in the news. Bryan seemed to be a little hesitant to talk about event of the last month or so in his life, so I decided not to press, and I think Jon did too. So much was happening lately to everyone that it was best to let them talk about it at their own pace.
Finnaly, Jon looked at Bryan. "How about a quick driving tour around the area? We can get some lunch while we're out."
Bryan nodded. "Sure. I've never been down this way." He glanced up at Jon's antlers. "Can you get into a car like that, though?"
Jon smiled. "Sure, just got a new car the other day with a high roof. Com'on, I'll show you."
We all stood up. I excused myself and picked up a small satchel for my wallet and ID as well as my flight computer from my bag. Never knew if I'd need that. Then I met them outside. Jon had already opened the back up for me to climb in and Bryan looked on with a little smile. "You can't sit in down in there?"
I shook my head and unfolded my wings to their full width. "Not with these behind me, not to mention the tail feathers." I refolded them me. Bryan shook his head, smiling. We all climbed into the car.
We drove around the city for a little while, Jon pointing out some of the major sites. We ended up near the Oceanside pier. It was a seasonably warm day, and we climbed out of the car to walk around.
Bryan seemed a little hot in his permanent wool sweater. "Is it always like this around here?"
Jon nodded. "This time of year, anyway. Though it's only a little cooler in the winter. Let's head out onto the pier."
We walked along the beach for a short distance. It seemed clear that not everyone was returning to the beaches. Most of the people lounging around or in the water seemed to be either fish, sea mammal or sea bird morphs. There were pretty few other types around. We walked onto the pier and out to the end. A mild off shore breeze started to blow.
Bryan took a deep breath and smiled slightly, "That feels better."
I spotted something floating in the water and looked back at Bryan. "You asked if I could fly..." And I abruptly jumped off the end of the pier. I flapped a bit and leveled off about ten feet from the waters surface, then gently dropped until my wingtips were just touching the surface of the water. At the last second, I pulled my wings back, dropped down and snatched my prize from the water. I pulled myself back into the air and circled back to the pier, landing almost exactly where I took off from.
Jon and Bryan were both grinning when I landed. "Showoff." They said, almost in unison.
I just bowed a little and handed them the chunk of driftwood I'd picked up. "No fish around out there. How about we grab some lunch. I'm buying."
Jon recommended a restaurant near the entrance to the pier, and we went in. It was a nice place, and they'd obviously made an effort to accommodate their patrons. They had chairs with open backs and perches for birds. It wasn't packed, but there was a regular zoo of people in the dining room. People watching was an interesting hobby nowadays. We got a table near the window and our waitress started across the room toward us. I glanced up as she crossed the dining room and felt a slight wave a nausea. She was about a medium degree zebra. I looked away from her.
Bryan gave me a funny look. "Something wrong?"
I was about to answer, but she got to our table. After she gave out the menus and explained the specials and left, I said, "I'm real sensitive to motion, and her stripes are making me seasick. Can I switch seats with one of you? I'd rather have my back to the room."
Jon and I switched, fumbling with our respective chairs, and we settled into looking at the menus. We started talking a little bit about how our diets had changed. Bryan and Jon had obviously the most significant change, being ruminants now. My diet was mostly a mental change. Bryan asked, "I take it that you're pretty much a fish eater?"
I nodded. "Mostly. Just a habit I've gotten into. I'm not sure how much of it is because of the Change or me just doing what I think I'm supposed too." I grinned and made a show of flipping between pages on the menu, "But I think that I'll try something a little different today. I just can't decide. What do you guys think? Should I have the lamb or venison?"
Jon never looked up from the menu, "I'd choose the lamb..." His face was expressionless, though his ears were vibrating slightly.
Bryan just looked at both of us for a moment, but barely missed a beat. "Actually, that venison sounds good. Maybe a side of eggs..."
The waitress chose that moment to return. "Are you guys ready to order?"
We just looked at one and other and tried to keep from laughing. We all just shook our heads and went back to reading the menus. A few minutes later, Jon signaled the waitress and we ordered, who gave me a strange look when I ordered chicken. I'm not sure if she expected me to order fish, or if she thought that it was somehow cannibalistic for me to eat a bird.
While we ate, the three of us talked about the events of the last few months. I mentioned off hand that I'd spent most of the time since the Change working on projects related to figuring out just what had happened biologically, and Bryan started asking me all sorts of questions. It turned out that he'd spent a little time working in a lab after the Change himself. I'd forgotten that he was a students in genetics. We talked for about 10 minutes before we realized that Jon was just sitting and watching us.
It gets easy sometimes to forget that biology has a nearly indecipherable language all it's own, even to other students of science..
We left the restaurant and headed back out to the beach area. We found a bench, and Jon and Bryan sat down while I leaned on a palm tree next to them. For a while, we just sat and watched the array of people going by while we talked. We'd been doing that for a couple hours when I happened to notice something in the air at the extreme range of my vision.
Jon was telling Bryan about his job on the police force when I interrupted. "Excuse me a sec..." I stood and before either of them could respond I launched myself into the air. I flapped hard to gain altitude and got level with the brown and white bird headed in my general direction. I was pretty sure I knew who it was.
"Kim! What are you doing around here?" I asked as we moved parallel to each other.
She called out lightly. I'd forgotten she couldn't speak while flying in her Norm shape.
"Sorry. Hey, follow me down. A friend just came into town that I'd like you to meet."
She moved her head up and down in acknowledgment, and we both headed for the beach.
Copyright1997, Brian Eirik Coe
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